on the implementation of the Framework Convention for the
Protection of National Minorities by Sweden
(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 11 June 2013
at the 1173rd meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies)
The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Articles 24 to 26 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (hereinafter referred to as the “Framework Convention”),
Having regard to Resolution Res(97)10 of 17 September 1997 setting out rules adopted by the Committee of Ministers on the monitoring arrangements under Articles 24 to 26 of the Framework Convention;
Having regard to the voting rule adopted in the context of adopting Resolution Res(97)10;1
Having regard to the instrument of ratification submitted by Sweden on 9 February 2000;
Recalling that the Government of Sweden transmitted its State report in respect of the third monitoring cycle under the Framework Convention on 1 June 2011;
Having examined the Advisory Committee's third opinion adopted on 23 May 2012, as well as the written comments of the Government of Sweden received on 16 November 2012;
1. Adopts the following conclusions in respect of Sweden:
a) Positive developments
Sweden has pursued a constructive approach to the monitoring process of the Framework Convention and maintained an inclusive and open approach towards the personal scope of application. Following the amendment of the Swedish Constitution with effect from 1 January 2011, the Sami are now recognised at constitutional level as an indigenous people.
Two laws of particular importance to persons belonging to national minorities were adopted in 2009: the National Minorities and National Minority Languages Act (2009:724) and the Language Act (2009:600). These laws expand the geographical areas in which the Finnish, Meänkieli and Sami languages can be used in contacts with the administrative authorities and increase the opportunities for persons belonging to national minorities to have an impact in decision making on issues of concern to them. A new integrated strategy for national minorities, aimed at clarifying the responsibilities of national, regional and local authorities, was also adopted in 2009.
Sweden has enacted new comprehensive antidiscrimination legislation and established a single Equality Ombudsman empowered to deal with all grounds of discrimination covered by Swedish law. This should enable the Ombudsman to take better account of multiple discrimination. Sweden has also made commendable efforts to improve the prosecution of hate crimes.
The expansion of administrative areas under the National Minorities Act means that more children are entitled to pre-school activities in minority languages. The requirement that children speak the language at home in order to be entitled to mother tongue instruction has also been removed with respect to the languages of national minorities, as has the requirement that there be a minimum of five pupils in order to open a class.
A Strategy for Roma Inclusion 2012-2032 was adopted in February 2012, following consultations with Roma organisations, and covers the key fields of participation in public and socio-economic life. The overall aim of the strategy is that by 2032, Roma born in 2012 will benefit from full and effective equality in Swedish society. Much of the strategy has been welcomed by Roma organisations.
b) Issues of concern
The new Discrimination Act (2008:567) does not expressly cover discrimination based on language – a point of concern given the difficulties experienced by persons belonging to national minorities in exercising their rights with respect to the use and learning of their minority languages. This Act also does not expressly provide for the possibility of adopting special measures in all relevant fields of daily life of persons belonging to national minorities, in particular as regards health and housing, as such measures are still not generally accepted in Sweden, although they are provided for in Article 4, paragraphs 2 and 3 of the Framework Convention.
Overall, insufficient information is available about discrimination against persons belonging to national minorities. The situation may vary from one national minority to another and increased efforts to monitor and address the specific forms of discrimination experienced by them must be made.
The sustainability of the long-term cultural activities of national minorities is difficult to ensure because such projects are usually funded for a limited period of one year. Minorities are not always sufficiently involved in decision-making processes on the allocation of resources and the amount of funds available is reportedly insufficient to cover their real needs. This issue is particularly crucial for numerically smaller minorities.
The legal situation of the Sami as regards winter grazing land rights needs to be clarified in the light of the Supreme Court's judgment of 27 April 2011 and more efforts are needed to ensure that their traditional way of life is maintained and negative impacts of spatial planning decisions are minimised.
While there was a welcome increase in broadcasting hours in minority languages from 2010 to 2011, the availability of minority language media is still insufficient, especially for the numerically smaller minorities.
The legal guarantees for the use of minority languages before the local authorities remain only partially implemented. It seems that some local authorities are still unaware of the obligations arising under the new law and their responsibilities deriving from it; others explain that they have insufficient staff who speak minority languages. Linguistic rights are therefore often fulfilled through the use of interpretation or translation services, which results in delays in the handling process and discourages many persons belonging to national minorities from actually using their language. The problem is particularly acute as regards providing care for the elderly in minority languages in the administrative areas for Finnish, Sami and Meänkieli.
Problems in the access of Roma children to education persist, including a lack of awareness or acknowledgement of Roma culture in schools and school curricula, bullying and harassment of Roma children by pupils or teachers, and high levels of absenteeism and school dropouts amongst Roma children. All these factors have a negative impact on the education outcomes of Roma.
The lack of suitably trained teachers remains a serious barrier to receiving education in and of minority languages as well as bilingual and multilingual education. At the same time, there is a general need to replace a generation of minority language teachers nearing retirement age. Certain additional obstacles hinder access to mother tongue tuition in minority languages, notably the fact that municipalities are only obliged to provide such instruction if a suitable teacher is available and the condition that children belonging to national minorities have “basic knowledge” of their minority language in order to benefit from the right to mother tongue instruction.
The high degree of decentralisation in Sweden has resulted in insufficient co-ordination both amongst the central authorities themselves and between the central authorities and decentralised authorities dealing with issues related to national minorities. Certain difficulties faced in implementing the rights of persons belonging to national minorities arise as a direct result of this insufficient co-ordination and are compounded by the absence of effective mechanisms to ensure that decentralised authorities respect their obligations arising under international and domestic law.
Although the Sami Parliament is a popularly elected body, its key function remains that of a State agency responsible for administering policies decided by the Riksdag and the central government. This may result in conflicts between its political and administrative functions. Its role in decision-making processes on issues affecting land and traditional activities of the Sami people also remains limited.
Despite the extensive involvement of Roma organisations in the preparatory phases of the Strategy for Roma Inclusion 2012-2032 and the fact that they consider many elements of the strategy to be positive, concerns have been expressed that the focus on achieving equality primarily for children born today may create divisions between young Roma and older generations and that the strategy does not make sufficient provision for Roma to participate as actors in its implementation.
2. Adopts the following recommendations in respect of Sweden:
In addition to the measures to be taken to implement the detailed recommendations contained in sections I and II of the opinion of the Advisory Committee, the authorities are invited to take the following measures to improve further the implementation of the Framework Convention:
Issues for immediate action2
- Redouble efforts to implement effectively the National Minorities Act among public service providers at local level in the municipalities concerned; pay particular attention to language training, language qualifications in public procurement procedures and targeted recruitment of minority language speakers; monitor the implementation of all measures and evaluate their effectiveness regularly in order to ensure that the linguistic rights of persons belonging to national minorities are fully respected;
- Strengthen efforts to address the lack of minority language teachers as well as teachers equipped for bilingual and multilingual education; adopt a strategic approach, in consultation with representatives of national minorities, in order to ensure that there is adequate provision of higher education in this field and that minority language teaching is sustainable as a profession; take special measures to attract students to minority language teaching;
- Take steps to ensure that the Sami Parliament is able to participate effectively in decision-making processes in all areas affecting the Sami people, including public affairs such as spatial planning as well as the reindeer industry and educational and cultural matters;
- Extend the grounds set out in the new Discrimination Act (2008:567) so as to cover expressly discrimination based on language; expand the provision made in domestic law for special measures aimed at achieving full and effective equality as prescribed by Article 4, paragraphs 2 and 3 of the Framework Convention; step up efforts to monitor ethnic discrimination against persons belonging to national minorities;
- Clarify and improve the legal situation of the Sami people in relation to land rights and pursue efforts to preserve their right to their traditional way of life, while ensuring the rights of the other groups settled in the areas concerned;
- Adopt additional measures in order to improve the access of Roma children to quality education in an inclusive environment free of harassment; step up efforts to train Roma mediators, in parallel with initiatives aimed at promoting the training and employment of Roma as teachers; take targeted steps to overcome the high level of school dropouts and absenteeism among Roma children;
- Remove the requirement that children have “basic knowledge” of their national minority language in order to receive mother tongue instruction in this language as part of their compulsory schooling;
- Step up efforts to improve co-ordination amongst the central authorities responsible for issues related to national minorities and between the central and decentralised authorities, in order to strengthen the content and the implementation of policies aimed at the protection of persons belonging to national minorities;
- Involve Roma directly in ensuring the successful implementation of the Strategy for Roma Inclusion 2012-2032 and allocate adequate resources to achieving the desired outcomes.
3. Invites the Government of Sweden, in accordance with Resolution Res(97)10:
a. to continue the dialogue in progress with the Advisory Committee;
b. to keep the Advisory Committee regularly informed of the measures it has taken in response to the conclusions and recommendations set out in sections 1 and 2 above.
1 In the context of adopting Resolution Res(97)10 on 17 September 1997, the Committee of Ministers also adopted the following rule: “Decisions pursuant to Articles 24.1 and 25.2 of the Framework Convention shall be considered to be adopted if two-thirds of the representatives of the Contracting Parties casting a vote, including a majority of the representatives of the Contracting Parties entitled to sit on the Committee of Ministers, vote in favour”.
2 The recommendations below are listed in the order of the corresponding articles of the Framework Convention.